God Just Wants You To Be Happy
God Just Wants Me To Be Happy!
When our son Jackson was just a couple months old, Jodi and I had the opportunity to go on a cruise. It was a super good deal, you just had to sit through a little time-share speech, and you got this three day cruise to the Bahamas for a really low price. We figured, yeah, that sounds amazing! Can we bring more people along? They said, sure! So my family came down from PA to meet us in Florida for this cruise. And of course the pictures of the cruise ship were amazing. Swimming pool, multiple restaurants, shows, and it would dock in Nassau, and you got to spend a day on the island doing whatever you want.
So, we got to Florida, and boarded the ship. And right away, we knew okay, this isn’t exactly what we thought it would be, but hey it’s a cruise. When we got to our room, the first thing we noticed was that the rooms were so small, it felt like you could take a nap on the bed, a shower, and use the toilet all without moving your feet. But hey we’re on a cruise.
The second thing we noticed was that the beautiful swimming pool the brochure told us about had no water in it. It was roped off with yellow caution tape, and even if it wouldn’t have been, it was probably big enough for 20 people, not the several hundred on board. But hey we’re on a cruise.
Probably the thing that made us realize what we got ourselves in for, was when we docked at the Bahamas. We got off, spent the day riding mopeds around the island, taking in the sights, and shops and what not, and as they called for us to reboard the ship, we headed back to the dock and there was a Carnival cruise ship parked next to our ship. It made ours look like a life raft.
We learned later in the trip that our ship was the oldest cruise ship still on the water. It had been retired, and then brought out of retirement simply for this gig. My family and I decided to lovingly refer to our cruise ship as the USS Satanic because of how terrible it was.
As it turned out, the pictures on the brochure were very misleading and deceptive.
And that in itself is the essence of sin. As we talked about last week, Satan rarely comes barreling into our lives like a lion trying to rip our heads off, but he sneaks in through misleading and deceptive tricks, several of which we will be talking about in the coming weeks.
And one of those deceptions is the line: God just wants you to be happy.
Turn with me to Exodus 17 for a minute. Before we get to second Corinthians 4, we’re going to visit a story from Israel’s history.
This story happens just a few weeks after God had brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. That he had a new and better land for them, flowing with abundance and blessing, and all they had to do was put down their shovels, put some Lamb’s blood on the doorpost of their homes, and God would lead them out. And so he did, but there was one giant hurdle to cross before they got to the Land of Promise... A giant wilderness, full of danger, scorching sun, and heat. Water and food would be scarce for anyone, much less a group that size.
And in Exodus 17, the people were moving from one place in the desert to another, following the commands of the Lord, until one place he instructed them to camp had no water. They rolled up to the site God had chosen for them to set up, and noticed right away – there’s no water here. How is this going to work? We have to have water.
Let me just say, if you choose to follow the Lord with your life, there will be moments in your story where you will feel like God has brought you somewhere only to let you down. Maybe the boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband or wife you felt God has put in your life crushes your heart and leaves you bleeding out. Maybe the children you pray to have end up with disability or disease with no answer to the questions. Maybe the school or job or vocation you believe God has called you to turns out to be a dead end or painfully difficult and you wonder if you heard correctly. Maybe your health starts improving, only to take three steps back.
Now when you think about the Promised Land, when you think God just wants you to be happy, you might think of new jobs, having a great marriage and a wonderful family, more money, more blessing, an outpouring of God’s favor on you, fun new experiences, or whatever. I think it’s safe to say every Israelite would probably have had their own pictures in mind of what the Promised Land was like, and camping in the desert with no water certainly wasn’t it.
And this is where Satan leans in and questions God’s character.
- Well, if God is in control then why is he allowing this?
- Why does he let good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people.
- If God is so good, why has he let this happen to me?
- If God is so wise and sovereign and all-knowing, why would he bring hundreds of thousands of people to a place where there is no water?
- If God just wants me to be happy, he’s not doing a very good job of being God.
And then maybe you start to question God. “Listen God. I followed the rules. I sat through the speech. Why am I not seeing the picture in my life that I saw on the brochure?”
And then come the counterfeit gospels. And every day of your life, through commercials, through advertisements, through movies and TV show, you are being sold the idea of a beautiful cruise ship of life. You are being told that since God hasn’t delivered, you can make your own Promised Land. Every day, we are being sold the idea that you’ll have a happier life, a better life if you have clearer skin, a new car, better hair, new clothes, if you rescue an animal, if you eat at this restaurant or drink this beer.
And even though it doesn’t work in satisfying us long term, we continue to believe that it will, because after all, God just wants us to be happy!
And back to Exodus 17, God knows there is no water there. He’s not surprised by it. And after he lets the people get a little thirsty and desperate, they start complaining and thinking how much better Egypt was and how they want to go back, and Moses calls out to God. So God tells him to strike a specific rock with his staff, and water will come out of the rock. So with several hundred thousand desperate and thirsty people watching, Moses hits the rock with his staff, and God makes a way in the wilderness. God makes a river in a desert to provide for his people to show them he is more than enough! God shows he can be trusted – that he is faithful to provide.
RECOGNIZING THE LIE
The lie is that God just wants you to be happy, and because you’re not happy, he must not be who he said he is. He’s not doing things right.
But one of the ways you recognize that lie is to constantly preach to yourself this world isn’t our home any more than the desert was home for the Israelites! Remember what God was doing with them. Redeeming them from slavery, moving them to the Land of Promise, the same thing he’s doing with us today. We are just passing through. This world isn’t meant to be our home, nor are its pleasures meant to satisfy our thirst.
God brought Israel to that spot in the desert that day specifically SO THAT he could make a way for them. SO THAT he could show them his glory and grace and provision and power by making a river in the desert. And every moment of suffering and hardship that God allows in your life is not a sign of his absence, that he’s abandoned you, but that he is doing something IN you to lead you to where he wants you to be.
Ephesians 1:4 - For he [God the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ], before the foundations of the world [before Adam and Eve, before Eden, before the serpent, before he said “let there be light”], to be holy and blameless in his sight [in whose sight? His].
So here’s the problem with “God just wants me to be happy”: God’s primary goal for your life is not that you are happy, successful, healthy, wealthy, or wise, even though he may give you some of those things. God’s primary goal for your life, what he chose you for before the foundation of the world, is that you are holy. That doesn’t mean that you are perfectly pious and never sin. It means you are set apart for the pursuit of bringing God glory in everything you do and say and think, in a way that reflects who he is to the world, and sees yourself rightly in view of who He is.
- Now, you cannot get this twisted – holiness does not mean you’ll never be happy. God is not opposed to your happiness. In fact, throughout this life, there are all kinds of enjoyable things, even good gifts he’s given us.
- But the devil's goal for you, the good news according to Satan, is that you can be completely satisfied with zero holiness.
- Being happy and not being holy robs God of his glory, and nothing would make Satan happier.
- The problem with “God Just Wants Me To Be Happy” is the word just. God doesn’t just want us to be happy. He wants us to be holy.
And holiness is often forged in the desert. Holiness is forged in the wilderness of life. Holiness is forged in brokenness and suffering.
Last week I asked you how you would fill in the blank: If I only had ________________ I would be happy, and I’m pretty sure none of you would have filled in that blank with the word “suffering.” If I only suffered more, I would find happiness.
But God’s goal is our holiness, even if it means suffering. And that’s great news! Because if his goal for you is your happiness, then he’s not doing a very good job. But if his goal for you is NOT your happiness, but your holiness, you will find that even in the worst of deserts, the most difficult of wildernesses in your life, that there is one Rock who constantly provides Living water and his name is Jesus.
- Even if he asks you to endure hardship, he is with you to provide.
- Not only is Jesus the source of living water, he left the glories of heaven to come to earth, to walk in the dust and disappointment of our wilderness. To experience hunger and thirst, and pain and grief with you and for you, so that as you experience sorrow in life, you can turn to a Savior who says, “I know.”
When Moses struck the rock with his staff, water flowed out and satisfied the thirst of the nation of Israel. As Jesus Christ hung on the cross, the soldiers struck him with a spear and blood and water flowed out of the true Rock and Redeemer, to satisfy the thirst of anyone who would reach out to him for salvation. And then, this Jesus who is the way, the truth, the life, rose from the grave, and by his Spirit dwells and moves with us through every season of life – not so that you and I are simply happy – but for the eternal glory of God.
I encourage you to talk it over in your groups, in your home today over lunch.
- Maybe have someone share when God has provided for you when it seemed like you were in a desert with no water.
- Maybe some of you feel like you’re in the desert still waiting for something to happen.
- And as you talk this over, don’t forget to remind each other that Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin and death. His victory on the cross has guaranteed eternal life to those who call on him to save them. That’s the greatest provision of all.
May God continue to make a way in the wilderness for us all, as we move toward the true Promised Land.
Grace and peace.